Complaints Management Best Practice

August 21, 2011

A press release on 15 August 2011 from CDC Software and Mathew James Customer Care Solutions (described as the independent customer service consultancy) announced “the need for a common set of customer complaint and feedback management processes to provide a benchmark for all customer-facing businesses”.

CDC is one of a number of solutions that I had originally tracked down when looking for National Indicator 14 (NI14) and customer satisfaction applications and appears on the list I compiled of companies that supply such.

I would still argue that successful delivery of services can only be done if all channels are monitored for effectiveness and the press release lists out the code of six proposed best practices:

“1) Culture. Look at customer complaints as highly targeted business intelligence and use root cause analysis to improve the business, increase brand value, reduce complaint volume and to cross-sell products and services.

2) KPIs. Understand that badly set KPIs hamper the quality of complaint resolution. Good complaints management is about the quality and effective resolution of each complaint, not, for example, the number of calls handled.

3) Technology. The right technology will revolutionise customer service. An intuitive, easy-to-use and informative customer management platform will “listen” to the customer and “tell” the business what it is doing right and where it is going wrong!

4) People. Customer service personnel are the face of the business. They form customer opinions. It is vital to have the right people in place and they must be trained and empowered.

5) Trends. Monitor trends to ensure the root cause of repetitive complaints is established and processes put in place, or new services developed, to avoid unnecessary customer complaints and ensure future customer satisfaction.

6) Social media. Businesses need to understand the speed and breadth of information flow and be pro-active. Monitor activity, anticipate issues and pro-actively communicate using the preferred channel of each customer group.”

These were all lessons from my own research and I welcome and encourage their use as best practice.

Channelled thinking

December 2, 2010

A seminar/workshop on 26 November 2010, provided by the Yorkshire & Humber Transformation Support Framework (TSF) in conjunction with the same region’s Socitm, for local authorities in the region looked at “Self-service: unlocking the potential in Yorkshire & Humber”.

One of the presenters was Simon Pollock, Head of  Customer Services at Surrey County Council, who provided a very humorous and challenging look at how Surrey made a difference by managing to channel shift some of their citizens reducing the number of calls to the contact centre by increasing the use of the Internet channel. One of the many things he gave us to think about was how to develop a channel strategy, providing Surrey’s as a good start!

Some things a number of the presenters agreed upon were that:

  • more than 50% of the users of local government websites were after information (not transactions)
  • the Internet is not always the ideal channel for all services or transactions
  • one person in control of customer contact
  • use the public website in the contact centre
  • market it (the website)

and of course the need to measure usage and employ feedback from all the channels involved!

Now, how long have I been saying these things…

NI14 is dead, long live parsimony!

April 4, 2010

Having announced the departure of NI14, the question entered my head what happens to monitoring “failure demand“? If authorities were at least trying to track usage on channels and report back to services where they were failing, the measure (NI14) may have had some value, no matter how overcooked it was!

Instead, we now possibly have a vacuum in the understanding of multiple and cross-channel service delivery.

So, what to do? Well the last three years or more of my research have resulted in this model:

indicating that a suitable way of monitoring channel shift, improving channel shift and possibly improving service across all channels is to record usage and (dis)satisfaction across ALL citizen channels. It’s no use picking on one channel, you have no way of knowing where the variation occurs.

anybody thinking about this might consider one of the tools on my Company table V8 or develop something similar of their own, but if they want to manage channel shift, along with improving service delivery, they should consider employing what I continue to call Citizen Engagement Management ( a tool to understand how citizens respond across multiple channels to how services are attempted to be delivered).

A week in politics…

March 28, 2010

A week in politics can be a long time and the once commencing 22nd March 2010 was no exception! Tuesday saw the PM’s speech about the semantic web and Mygov. Wednesday brought the budget with the cuts to jobs and spending afforded by the various efficiency savings. Thursday brought the Total Place report being published by the Treasury. Friday produced the updated Smarter Government report, announcing the demise of NI14, which came from the CLG.

So, apart from coming from different bits of Whitehall, what can we glean in common from these four? Not very much? Perhaps that’s a clue? Whilst the CLG have had to drop NI14 when it had barely started, the most hotly challenged and debated performance indicator on record, Total Place demonstrates that efficiencies, in this time and place, are less about channel shift and more about channel focus, along with being more about understanding citizen behaviour than recording how bad government services are at not doing what they expected.

What about the DGPSU (the Digital Public Services Unit!)? How will this differ from the previous incarnations (including Office of the E-Envoy and the E-Government Unit)? The E-Government Unit became the largest unit within the Cabinet Office. Will the DGPSU follow suite? Will this aid or contest the Government ICT Strategy’s aim to centralise at least a good chunk of government IT management?

I suspect we will have to wait and see, but at least this time I gather there is a local government presence there at the moment – let’s see if anyone listens…


February 9, 2010

A report to appear amidst the grey literature in February is one from Localis entitled “For Good Measure – Devolving Accountability for Performance and Assessment to Local Areas“.

However, what worries this practitioner/researcher amongst all the proposals for a bright, lighter world is an issue raised in 

Dunleavy, P., Margetts, H, Bastow, S and Tinkler, J., (2006). “New public management is dead. Long live digital-era governance.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 16(3): 467-494.

Where, in the conclusions, on p.488 they ask “whether managers and political elites, long-educated and socialized in NPM approaches, will actually be able to change direction radically enough to fully exploit the potential of DEG reforms.” Where DEG is Digital Era Governance, a model that is e-government done the right way round without all the New Public Management (NPM) baggage of targets and boutique-bureaucracies that have undermined it. A particular concern of mine is that the existing local government management have grown up with NPM and got their jobs by supporting the regimen of performance indicators and inspection, how will they manage without it?

However, the report, along with providing a history of audit in local government requests a reduction of the increasing burden that it places on local authorities, such as the quantity of performance indicators and the indicators employed. Instead, the authors request the involvement  of  citizens (or as they describe them – residents). This needs the new regime to be prepared for co production, cooperatives and communication.

Improving service

January 12, 2010

The Socitm Customer Access Improvement Service has published its latest (December 2009) report, which is Issue 3. It has received a great detail of reportage for its emphasis on poorly performing council web sites. I’m not sure that quite so much can be read from the cumulative data, and a bit like National Indicator 14 “avoidable contact”  believe these analyses need to take place at a more granular level and thing some of the assumptions are very subjective!

I also have a concern that a document from Socitm is making statements like the one on page 3 “The country cannot afford the current scale of the public sector.” This is a broad brush attack on all government, so includes local authorities and health trusts. This is not a decision for an IT managers organization, it’s one for the electorate since some countries, as we know, have a much higher scale of expenditure. What really matters is the quality being delivered for that expenditure, if its too high a quality or too low, the public have to decide. If too much is being spent they have to decide what services are no longer required, or whether services they can do without are being delivered. Ultimately this is the value of applications such as that used by GovMetric or the others named on my list (see below) – they give the public an opportunity to comment on the value of services delivered.

According to the report there are now 56 councils providing GovMetric data but of these only one is acknowledged to be recording data across the three major channels in one directorate or service only, which is not ideally what we should be achieving if we are to understand channel shift or manage channels at all.

Big things continue to be made about South Tyneside’s apparent channel shift around waste management, which they achieved by developing their web site as a result of feedback through the service, I would argue that all channels need to be improved and this is an end-to-end reform of services, since channels are only the presentation layer. We have a lot more experience with the face-to-face and telephone channels and have obviously some experience at delivering them, but the web is the new kid on the block, it can’t at the moment be interactive in the sense of the Turing machine.

I believe getting feedback from citizens is the way forward but I have doubts about making too much of it from the higher level generalizations that Socitm makes and I must say that the one promoted by Socitm is not the only solution – have a look at the list – Company table V8.

UPDATE – I’ve been asked by Alex Chapman of GovMetric to update on a few possible inaccuracies between my reading of the Socitm CAIS report and the state of play with GovMetric, which I am posting below –

  • “There are currently 59 authorities signed up to GovMetric with a further 9 housing associations; so, there are just under 70 users in total
  • More importantly, almost all of these are using GovMetric in a multi-channel approach measuring customer feedback and performance across at least 3 channels (F2F, phone and web) and across typically 8 services
  • An increasing number are also linking this feedback data to E&D and customer segmentation groups as well to increase their insight about what customers needs are, their experiences and their channel preferences.


I agree with you whole heartedly that, “if we are to understand channel shift or manage channels at all”, we do need to go beyond one service or even one channel; this is not the case with GovMetric, neither in concept nor in practice.  From a GovMetric perspective, customer feedback is not the only thing that matters, but being able to understand service demand by service, by channel, as well.”


December 17, 2009

NDL have produced their latest (sixth) report on ‘Integration and CRM Systems’. As one would expect from a commercial organization they require  you to register by email with them at info (at) in order to receive it but it does reinforce my own academic work and they have managed to cover over 50% of local authorities, getting them to complete it over the ‘phone.

In summary it states:

P.2., talking about eforms and CRM – “our research has shown that both of these technologies have been applied as a veneer, masking continuing areas of inefficiency from public view.”

P.3., discussing NI14 – “very little activity is taking place based on this data, with most authorities still ‘collating’ or ‘analysing’ their data sets.”

P.10., examining integration of back office applications – vast majority have only integrated between one and five applications with their CRM.

P.10., very few have CRM’s transacting directly with back office.

P.11., over half of authorities are only partly complying with NI14.

P.13., “we draw the conclusion that many of the smaller District councils see middleware as an expensive and largely non-essential overhead that is impossible to justify.” Which I quite agree with!

P.14., with regard to Government Connect – 46% are firmly convinced that it will never shown any value!

As to the last (Government Connect), from this IT Manager’s perspective, using it continues to be a slow and agonising process, as technical issues still arise, although some process improvements in Benefits are showing. However, there are still a limited number of government departments playing the game, although they’ve been told to exploit it. If they all got on board more quickly it would really demonstrate some value!